Of South India's five Shiva temples associated with each of the five elements, this 12-hectare precinct is the shrine of earth. You enter beneath the 59m-high, unpainted south gopuram, whose lively carvings were chiselled in 1509 under Vijayanagar rule. Inside, a columned hall leads left into the central compound, which Nandi faces from the right. The inner sanctum (Hindus only) contains a lingam made of earth and a mirror chamber where the central Shiva image is reflected in endless repetition.
According to legend, the goddess Kamakshi (She Whose Eyes Awaken Desire; a form of Parvati, Shiva's consort) worshipped Shiva under a mango tree here, before the two were married on the same spot. In a courtyard behind the inner sanctum stands a mango tree said to be 2500 years old, with four branches representing the four Vedas (sacred Hindu texts). Also of note, in the temple's northwest corner, is the Sahasra Lingam, made of minilinga.